SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 19, 2013

Benton: Committee members stood firm on Saltonstall

By Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Regardless of how one feels about the merits of the extended year at Salem’s Saltonstall School, one has to admire the willingness of school board members Brendan Walsh, Janet Crane, Jim Fleming and Nate Bryant to stick to their principles on this matter.

In the days leading up to Monday night’s vote, huge pressure was applied by parents, the mayor, a former mayor, the city’s state representative, at least one city councilor, the state university president, the business community and this newspaper to maintain Saltonstall’s unique, 190-day schedule. And those testifying at Monday’s meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of the same.

Peabody’s school committee would have folded like a house of cards in the face of this consensus. Not Salem’s.

The majority stuck to their contention that Saltonstall’s MCAS scores do not justify the extra $150,000 it costs to keep school in session during part of the summer.

Threats abound that some school board members will be made to pay at the polls this November. Fleming and Bryant won re-election to four-year terms in 2011; so it will be Walsh, a former school administrator and frequent contributor to the News’ opinion pages, along with Crane, who figure to be at risk this fall.

One who has already thrown her hat in the ring is Rachel Hunt, administrator at the Salem Academy Charter School, who has butted heads with Walsh in the past over the issue of institutions like hers that receive public funding but do not answer to an elected school board. Hunt also came out publicly in favor of maintaining the extended year at Saltonstall.

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Several sources have reported a large and enthusiastic crowd that included state Treasurer Steve Grossman at a fundraiser to benefit Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll at the city’s newest restaurant, Opus, Sunday night.

Grossman made it clear at last weekend’s Democratic convention in Lowell that he intends to run for governor next year. Driscoll, who appears bound for easy re-election as mayor this fall, was also at the convention and has often been mentioned as a potential candidate for statewide office, as well, in 2014.

If it’s the treasurer’s office she covets, however, she could face a challenge from another north-of-Boston candidate in state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, who’s been making the rounds of party events lately and had an impressive presence outside the conventional hall last Saturday.

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Want to buy a home you can’t afford? Move to Lynn.

That seems to be the message from the City Council there, which recently passed legislation providing maximum protections to those who find they overextended themselves when taking out a mortgage.

According to Isaac Hodes of Lynn United for Change, one of the main backers of the new ordinance, “We’re not here because people don’t want to pay their mortgage but because they happened to buy a home during an unprecedented housing bubble and their mortgage was never affordable.”

Not that banks were without blame for the foreclosure crisis, but whatever became of the admonition, “Buyer beware?”

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Nelson Benton covered North Shore politics for 40 years before retiring last year from The Salem News.